Education should involve more than just having conversations with the child. Prosecutors
should take children to the actual courtroom where the trial will be held. Prosecutors should show
the child where the judge, jury, prosecution, and defense will sit.100 When appropriate, it may also
be advantageous to let a child physically touch and use courtroom objects,101 like the witness
stand, microphones, and the projector. Depending on the situation and the child, it may be a good
idea to let a child watch a live trial to actually see what one looks like.102
There is not one single way to educate a child. Prosecutors must remember that every
child is unique in his or her needs and personality. Taking time to prepare children for trial will
help reduce their anxiety and stress, which is essential for victims to testify most accurately and
articulately.103 Prosecutors must be attuned to the needs of their witnesses, and this cannot happen
if the child does not trust the prosecutor.
3. Defend a Child in the Courtroom
Once a witness enters the courtroom, the formalities for the judicial system take over.
Witnesses sit apart from their friends and family. From a witness’s perspective, they are alone,
seated next to the judge. Attorneys, the audience, tables, chairs, and the defendant are between the
witness stand and the exit. When the child witness testifies, all eyes are fixed on the child.
Objections and asking for breaks are two common ways attorneys can bring reprieve to
their witnesses. Forcing traumatized children to testify can be damaging to the children and
against their best interests.104 Prosecutors should act in ways that reduce re-traumatization or
traumatization in their child witnesses. While completely eliminating traumatic reactions is
unrealistic, there are several options prosecutors should consider to reduce the negative effects of
trial. Prosecutors can utilize support persons, support objects, and support dogs to provide direct
support. Prosecutors can also use expert testimony to help explain a victim’s behavioral reactions
Courts are finally implementing procedures and regulations to help reduce the harmful
effects of testifying on children. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and
Adoption Reform Act specifically provides funds to states for implementing procedures to reduce
a child’s trauma.105 States, too, have started implementing statutes that are protective of child
i. Use of support persons
Support persons are commonly allowed in the courtroom to aid child witnesses.107
According to a 2010 survey by the National District Attorneys’ Association, forty-seven out of
fifty states specifically make provisions for support persons during trial.108 New Jersey and New
100 Cowan, supra note 78, at 7.
102 Id. at 8.
103 Cunningham & Stevens, supra note 52, at 13.
104 Id. at 6.
105 42 U.S.C. § 5106c (2012).
106 See ARK. CODE ANN. § 16-43-1001(a)(1) (West 2015) (permitting testimony of a child by closed-circuit television); see COLO.
REV. STAT. ANN. § 16-10-402(1)(a) (West 2015) (permitting the use of closed-circuit television for a child witness); see IOWA CODE
ANN. § 915.38(1)(a), (b) (West 2015) (allowing child testimony to be taken in a room other than the courtroom and be televised by
closed-circuit equipment for viewing in the courtroom); see MISS. CODE ANN. § 13-1-407(1) (West 2015) (permitting a trial court to
order the videotaping of a child’s testimony in some circumstances).
107 Bradley D. McAuliff et al., Supporting Children in U.S. Legal Proceedings: Descriptive and Attitudinal Data from a National
Survey of Victim/Witness Assistants, 19 PSYCHOL. PUB. POL’Y & L. 98, 99 (2013) (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3509 (2012)).
108 See NAT’LCTR. FORPROSECUTION OFCHILDABUSE, NAT’LDISTRICTATTORNEYSASS’N, NDAAPRESENCE OFSUPPORT
PERSONS FOR CHILD WITNESSES COMPILATION (2010), available at